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Unicef: Maori youth say they're being denied what they need to flourish

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

UNICEF New Zealand will launch the county’s first Māori Child Wellbeing Monitor in Wellington tomorrow, Tuesday 7th May. More than 500 Māori participated in the development of the monitor through country-wide hui and a digital survey exploring Māori wellbeing in the four domains of Atua, Pakanga, Te Ao and Ihi.

"We were not surprised to learn that culture, including Te Reo and kapa haka, along with the concepts of whanaungatanga and spirituality are important when it comes to wellbeing for rangatahi (youth.) What concerns us is rangatahi feel their Māori culture is not acknowledged adequately by teachers and as a consequence, they struggle to be successful in school," says UNICEF New Zealand, Director of Child Rights, Andre Whittaker

"Caring for New Zealand children must start with tamariki Māori," says Whittaker, "as they are currently falling behind their non-Māori peers in health, education and other areas."

Recognising that standard tools to measure wellbeing didn’t resonate with Māori, UNICEF New Zealand partnered with children’s advocate Anton Blank from Oranui developing a tamariki Māori model called Te Hiringa Tamariki.

"Te Hiringa Tamariki articulates what tamariki Māori are capable of. For too long the focus has been on the problems with Māori youth and expectations for what they can achieve is low. We will use this model and data to support young Māori to flourish," says Whittaker.

From the research, tikanga (Māori values and practices) emerged as very important aspects of wellbeing for Māori. This information will inform positive interventions to support young Māori through the adolescent period. "We want to work with teachers to change some of the concerning patterns revealed by the survey. Learning how to talk to one another, as whānau, is critical. A significant portion of Māori still feel isolated, and say they have no-one to talk to."

Some of the interventions being explored as a result of the research findings are:

An online portal so more people can participate in the research. The application will also explain Māori wellbeing values and practices.

A pilot programme at Te Papapa School in Onehunga, Auckland to raise teacher expectations of Māori and Pasifika students, equip parents to support their children’s education and build resilience in Māori and Pasifika students. Hui in Christchurch, Wellington, Hastings and Auckland with Māori stakeholders to review the research findings.

A survey co-designed with young Māori to explore diversity, racism and bias.

‘Te Hiringa Tamariki is a major shift for us," Whittaker said. "It brings a greater focus on Aotearoa to our work and gives us a new language, based on Māori values about children. This approach is relevant to all New Zealand children and we see enormous potential to empower and build better futures for tamariki.

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